Sac­ri­fices for devel­op­ment

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Brian-Paul Welsh Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and pub­lic af­fairs com­men­ta­tor. He can be reached at bri­an­ and on so­cial me­dia @is­land­cynic.

THE PATH to­wards re­al­is­ing the Ja­maican so­ci­ety in which we all want to live is lit­er­ally cov­ered with blood, sweat and tears. This since all through­out our jour­ney we have en­dured need­less pain and suf­fer­ing brought about by our lack of fore­sight, ab­sent­mind­ed­ness and neg­li­gence.

When­ever I tra­verse this land, be it on foot or in some sort of ve­hi­cle, I am amazed at the per­ilous course we must learn to nav­i­gate in or­der to live in this com­mu­nity.

Whether it’s the con­struc­tion ma­te­rial left overnight in the mid­dle of the road­way, the un­cov­ered trench on the side­walk, the gar­dener op­er­at­ing his lawn­mower on a dusty patch with scant re­gard for on­com­ing traf­fic, or the taxi driver col­lect­ing and de­posit­ing peo­ple’s ‘pick­ney’ with less care than if they were farm an­i­mals; of­ten­times, sim­ply mak­ing it home un­scathed can feel like a note­wor­thy ac­com­plish­ment.

We are all painfully aware of our haz­ardous en­vi­ron­ment, and shake our heads in­cred­u­lously every time an­other un­for­tu­nate Ja­maican meets his demise or suf­fers some hor­rific in­jury that might have oth­er­wise been pre­vented had proper care been taken.

Many have been quick to recog­nise that not all lives have the same value on these shores, and the col­lec­tive sloth in ad­dress­ing mat­ters of con­cern to the preser­va­tion of the health and safety of or­di­nary peo­ple is re­flec­tive of this un­der­ly­ing con­tempt.

So we swerve every morn­ing to avoid the con­struc­tion ma­te­rial still left in the road­way since last week, and watch the poor chil­dren play hop­scotch on the sidewalks as they plot their course to and from school. We stand afar and curse the ‘fool-fool’ gar­dener for whip­ping up the rocks, and then we share videos of the bloody af­ter­math for amuse­ment.

It seems we have be­come so ac­cus­tomed to a life of in­se­cu­rity that our senses have been numbed and a pal­pa­ble cyn­i­cism has emerged, un­til, of course, we are per­son­ally af­fected.


No mat­ter how many heart-break­ing news sto­ries or dev­as­tat­ing head­lines might dom­i­nate the week’s moral panic, we know deep down that in this coun­try noth­ing will come of it un­til the death or se­ri­ous in­jury of the right ‘smaddy’.

I re­mem­ber, as a child, a crater could be found along Bar­bican Road that grew in cir­cum­fer­ence each day. One evening as we inched along, de­layed by this cav­ernous ad­di­tion to the road­way, a fancy SUV with out­rid­ers to pro­tect its VIP hastily over­took the line of traf­fic and un­know­ingly sped to­ward im­pend­ing doom.

I watched in hor­ror as the Em­peror’s sil­ver crown vi­o­lently bounced about his char­iot un­til the driver was able to safely emerge on the other side. Good, I thought, that his majesty fi­nally knows how it feels. By the fol­low­ing day the crevice had been filled, but I still wor­ried his Royal High­ness might have cricked his neck.

High­light­ing the sig­nif­i­cant im­pact of trauma on the cost of health care in Ja­maica, Dr Al­fred Dawes, in a Gleaner col­umn ear­lier this year, shared find­ings from the Ja­maica In­jury Sur­veil­lance Sur­vey (JISS) in­di­cat­ing that un­in­ten­tional in­juries ac­counted for 45 per cent, and in­ten­tional in­juries ac­counted for 38 per cent of vis­its to the is­land’s emer­gency rooms for in­juries over the pe­riod 2000-2009.

It has long been set­tled that the bur­den of trauma on the health sec­tor is caus­ing an al­ready over­bur­dened sys­tem to burst at the seams. Re­sources that could be used to treat other con­di­tions are in­stead be­ing di­verted to treat in­juries, of which it is said that up to 90 per cent may be pre­ventable.

In suc­ces­sive years, the es­ti­mated cost of hos­pi­tal care for the treat­ment of in­juries has met or ex­ceeded 20 per cent of the over­all health bud­get and with new dis­eases loom­ing on the hori­zon, we lit­er­ally can­not af­ford to add more bur­den to the limp­ing health sec­tor.

It is truly in no one’s in­ter­est to wait un­til a head­line or a tragedy be­fore ad­dress­ing the is­sue of per­sonal and pub­lic safety in Ja­maica.

Ev­ery­one says noth­ing will be done about it un­til the right smaddy dies, but no­body wants that smaddy to be them.

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